The wonderful thing about Spanish dining is that even when the food is exceptional, the service is never stuffy and never pretentious. The welcome at El Pirata was warm and friendly; as soon as we walked through the door we were greeted like old friends and presented with a basket of warm, fresh bread, a plate of jamon iberico and a full bowl of those beautiful salted green peppers. Before we knew it there was glasses of Rioja to accompany it, keeping us satisfied whilst we browsed through the exciting Tapas menu.
I love tapas. I love the whole premise of it; the way it is served and the way it is enjoyed among friends. It eliminates the usual anxious decision-making in restaurants, trying to pick just one delicious thing from the menu that will keep you from glancing over enviously at your partner’s dish, wishing you had made a better choice. The joy of ordering 4-5 dishes is a win-win situation, removing the possibility of food envy. The Spaniards got it right on this one.
After our first round of starter dishes, we ordered some calamari and a king prawn dish. The calamari was deliciously light – bathed in lemon, garlic and parsley it was tender, with absolutely none of that rubbery quality that is so common in squid dishes. The prawn dish was exceptional. Giant, plump prawns sat in an uniquely flavoured smokey, rich, tomato sauce. We used what was left of our bread basket to soak up the remains.
Next came the meat, which of course the Spanish do so well. They have such wondrous ways of turning a pig into a variety of incredible meat dishes and just the smell of their smokey, garlicky chorizo makes my mouth water. Our chicken and chorizo skewers went down really well, as did the lovely creamy jamon croquettas. We enjoyed this with some mushrooms and more of that lovely bread with alioli dip.
You would think after all that food we wouldn’t have space for dessert but we simply couldn’t resist the arroz con leche (Spanish rice pudding; miles away from the stodgy bowls we were served after school dinners) and the Torrijas, their version of a bread and butter pudding.
The restaurant was beautifully dressed. The tables were cloaked in dark blue fabrics and the walls adorned with iconic Spanish artworks. The staff were absolutely delightful, which made our long mid-week dinner extremely enjoyable. El Pirata is a Mayfair Tapas favourite for a reason, they provide faultless food in a relaxed, fuss-free environment, bringing classic Spanish dining values to the table every time.